Sweden, Norway ambassadors finally confirmed by U.S. Senate
February 12, 2016 — 2:34pm
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate confirmed ambassadors to Norway and Sweden on Friday, ending a drawn-out political fight between Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz.
Minnesotan Sam Heins, a lawyer and human rights advocate, is now the ambassador to Norway. The country has gone 869 days without an ambassador. For the Sweden post, the Senate confirmed Azita Raji, an Iranian-born Wall Street executive living in California.
Cruz had placed a “hold” on the two nominations — a Senate procedure used to block actions — because he opposed President Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal. On Friday, Cruz spokesman Phil Novack said he lifted his hold because, after seven months, “he feels like he has successfully drawn attention to the issues that he believes are catastrophic in the Iranian nuclear deal.”
Cruz also wanted to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese embassy after a dissident. The Senate granted that wish Friday, naming the open area Liu Xiaobo Plaza.
For the past seven months, Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn, have called Cruz’s hold an unfair political maneuver that was hurting critical Scandinavian allies.
“I went to the floor every day for six days in a row to ask for consent or give a speech about it,” Klobuchar said. “I am really pleased. … We once again have a Minnesotan in the embassy in Norway.”
Outside of Norway, Minnesota is home to the largest Norwegian population in the world.
“For far too long, the United States has been without ambassadors to Norway and Sweden,” Franken said in a statement. “Our nation shares a strong bond with both countries and nowhere is that more evident than in Minnesota, which has the largest Scandinavian population in the country.”
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Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota will support a Senate bill that requires food sold in the U.S. to carry labels disclosing genetically modified ingredients if it reaches the House for a vote. Peterson, a Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Agriculture Committee, reached that decision after studying a new Senate proposal. If passed by both chambers and signed into law, it would become the nation's first mandatory on-package labeling law for genetically modified organisms - known as GMOs. Peterson voted for a House bill that outlawed mandatory on-package designation of genetically engineered ingredients. But he said that the need for a national labeling policy in lieu of state laws like one that takes effect in Vermont July 1 was more important than deadlocking over on-package GMO labels.
Gov. Mark Dayton, looking to jump-start stalled negotiations with Republicans over a major package of public works projects and tax cuts, said on WCCO radio Wednesday that he's willing to forgo some infrastructure projects he previously said were must-haves.
Democrats from Minnesota's congressional delegation joined colleagues in U.S. House of Representatives chamber Wednesday afternoon for a sit-in aimed at forcing votes on gun control. Representatives Rick Nolan, Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum and Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar were early arrivals. They took seats to hold the floor in protest of the Republican leadership's refusal to bring gun control bills to a vote.